Gospel of John [21:1-14]. The appendix: Fishers of men, part 2.

Class Outline:

Title: Gospel of John [21:1-4]. The appendix: Fishers of men, part 2.


JOH 21:1 After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way.


JOH 21:2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples.


JOH 21:3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will also come with you." They went out, and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.


We are approximately two weeks after Easter Sunday. They haven't yet seen the Lord in Galilee. Perhaps the Lord told them the day they would meet on the designated mountain, or perhaps He told them to wait until He appears to them again. In any case, Peter can't sit idle and so he decides to go fishing. Thomas, John and James, Nathanael, and probably Andrew and Philip join him.


This develops in a way very reminiscent of their call to follow Christ full time in Luk 5. This call is now matured into a sending into the world.


JOH 21:4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.


JOH 21:5 Jesus therefore said to them, "Children, you do not have any fish, do you?" They answered Him, "No."


JOH 21:6 And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find a catch." They cast therefore, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.


This miracle will reveal to them the true nature of them being sent into the world. They have already begun to be fishers of men.


LUK 5:8

But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"


LUK 5:10

"Do not fear [being a sinful man], from now on you will be catching men."


Being the early morning it may have been too dark for them to recognize Him. Jesus frames His question so as to indicate that He knows the answer is no.


Whether Jesus knows that the abundance of fish is on the starboard side or if He is going to command fish to be on the starboard side is no matter since He is deity and both are correct. In Luk 5 Peter gave a mild protest to heading out and putting down the nets, but here they are not told to head out, just to try the right side of the boat. We are only left to fill in what their response was, either verbally to this stranger, or mentally, as they followed His instructions.


Christ gives the instruction or command and performs the miracle, and we reap the harvest.


They were unable to haul in the catch and so they dragged it behind.


JOH 21:7 That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord." And so when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.


JOH 21:8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.


With the same insight at the empty tomb John grasps the identity of the figure on the beach.


In his characteristic way Peter acts impetuously and putting on his outer garment, likely out of respect for the Lord, he hurls himself overboard and swims for land.


JOH 21:9 And so when they got out upon the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid, and fish placed on it, and bread.


Sights and smells can bring to us vivid memories. I'm sure Peter had the vivid memory of denying the Lord while around the fire at Caiaphas' palace.


JOH 18:18

Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.


The vast difference of course is that Peter is now surrounded by friends and brothers rather than enemies. Yet Christ is going to send him right back into the midst of the enemies in order to convert them to friends through faith in the gospel.


From now on Peter will no longer be afraid nor will he ever deny that he knows Christ, as he reveals at Pentecost.


JOH 21:10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish which you have now caught." 


JOH 21:11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.


The risen Lord had breakfast ready for His tired disciples, a meal of bread and fish as they remembered from former times. They are invited to bring their own contribution to the meal. The word for "fish" that the Lord had placed on the grill is singular, while He commands them to bring "fish," the same noun in the plural.


It seems that Peter drew up the net to the land on his own while the others were securing and exiting the boat. This could be a tacit tribute to his physical strength, as Lloyd Douglas, who wrote The Robe, has described him as 'the big fisherman.'


Nothing can be said of the number of fish other than they counted them and John remembered the number. I'm sure he lovingly remembered the number, but it is useless to attempt to apply any numerology to it.


The unbroken net refers to the fact that not one believer will be lost. The Royal Family will accommodate all who believe. There will be plenty of room.


LUK 14:15 And when one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, "Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!"


LUK 14:16 But He said to him, "A certain man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many;


LUK 14:17 and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited,' Come; for everything is ready now.'


LUK 14:18 "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, 'I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.'


LUK 14:19 "And another one said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.'


LUK 14:20 "And another one said, 'I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.'


LUK 14:21 "And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.'


LUK 14:22 "And the slave said, 'Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.'


LUK 14:23 "And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.


LUK 14:24 'For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.' "


What is significant is that the net did not break. In the incident in Luk 5 the nets were breaking and so they commissioned their partner boat to come and help, but there is not a tear here. This symbolizes that the gospel net will never break, no matter how many converts it catches; there is no limit to the number it will take, which I'm sure is more than 153.


The Lord has His own fish and they are invited to add that which His miracle allowed them to harvest. The Lord and His priests share in the catch that He provided.


I think this is a wonderful picture of the Lord's harvest that the church will gather. As the Father sent Him so He sent us to seek and to save those who are lost. He does all the work and the children of faith reap His harvest that we share in. This rightly explains the reason for this miracle.


JOH 21:12 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples ventured to question Him, "Who are You?" knowing that it was the Lord.


JOH 21:13 Jesus came and took the bread, and gave them, and the fish likewise.


We may be able to read between the lines here and feel some apprehension in these apostles, not in fear, but in the manner that He belonged to another order of existence as one risen from the dead and they as frail mortals. Peter has spent some alone time with Him, both here and on the prior occasion and it may be that he was the most comfortable. It may be why He had to ask them to come have breakfast. But this is conjecture, though we can be pretty sure that this is somewhat of a trying experience for them.


In the first meeting He ate fish in order to strengthen their faith. Now He feeds them bread and fish, symbolizing the word and the Spirit, in order to strengthen them for the work.


In His first meeting with them in the closed room, He ate broiled fish in front of them in order to strengthen their faith in His bodily resurrection. It would seem here that He is feeding them in order to strengthen them from fatigue after being at fishing all night, they are likely famished and in need of rest. This would symbolize what He would do for them in each of their ministries as He does for every believer through His word and Spirit.


The bread is certainly a symbol for Himself and the word of God and perhaps we can find symbolism for the fish as the Holy Spirit, but that is not necessary, as it is not done in the Scripture, but we know that the word is useless to us without the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit.


It was bread and fish that fed the multitude of the five thousand and the four thousand with bread and fish, the bounty of the earth and the sea, and so the only typology here is in the fact that as we are sent out as He was by the Father we are fully sustained as He was by the Father. We don't head out in the plan of God, on the Way of Christ, alone.  


It is certain that the early church used the fish as a symbol for Christ and the church.


"fish" - ivcqu,j[ichthus] = treated as an acrostic of the title Jesus (Iesous) Christ (Christos) God's (Theou) Son ('Uios) Savior (Soter).


We find this being used as early as the fourth century AD and was used by Augustine.


JOH 21:14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.


This is not His third appearance, but in John's gospel the third time He has appeared to them as a group.


Nothing is made of the missing four. We can conclude that they, for whatever reason in choosing not to join the others, missed out on an experience with the Lord. We would all have to humbly state that we've all missed out on many of these because we chose badly when an opportunity arose.


Verses 15-25 are the second part of this epilogue and it focuses on Peter and his commission or plan.


We can gather by verse 20 that they have left the breakfast site and are walking with Peter and the Lord speaking privately at some distance in the front.


JOH 21:20 Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them;


The question "Do you love Me more than these" would most likely refer to the other disciples. Can Peter know that? Does this make the Christian Way of Life a competition?


Certainly the Christian Way of Life is not a competition, and further, there is no way we can know how much another person loves the Lord. In what units would you measure it in and how? So then, why would the Lord ask such a question?


JOH 21:15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My lambs."


The Lord is likely asking these three questions because Peter has not yet fully dealt with his three denials.